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Twice as Many Best Bets as TVWW Can Fit to Print? Some Days, Yes... As in This Sunday
January 14, 2011  | By David Bianculli

Not a complaint -- just the reverse -- but there really IS a lot of good TV to watch these days. Especially Sundays. This week, after compiling the five choices that made the cut for this Sunday's BIANCULLI'S BEST BETS, I realized I had just as many worthwhile options left over.

So, for once (and to prove the point about an occasional abundance of televised riches), here comes an alternate BEST BETS -- five additional offerings that deserve to be considered...

The "real" BEST BETS for Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011, include two playoff football games (Seahawks-Steelers at 1 p.m. ET on Fox, Jets-Patriots at 4:30 p.m. ET on CBS); the annual Golden Globes Awards, hosted by Ricky Gervais (8 p.m. ET, NBC); and the latest installments of two shows that premiered last week, Downton Abbey on Masterpiece Classic (9 p.m. ET, PBS, check local listings) and Episodes (9:30 p.m. ET, Showtime), starring Matt LeBlanc.

So what does that leave? Here's my runner-up BEST BETS listing -- five more shows that deserve to be seen, recorded, enjoyed, etc.




TCM, 6 p.m. ET

Did this 1967 movie, starring Sidney Poitier as the dedicated instructor of a bunch of unruly teens in London's West End, make me want to be a teacher? Quite possibly. But it also made me want to be a charming, handsome black man, and that didn't work out as well. Regardless: This comedy-drama has very effective touches of both. Suzy Kendall and Judy Geeson, as two of the female students who eventually accept what "Sir" is trying to teach them, are just right -- as is Lulu, who not only plays another student, but sings the still-beautiful title song.



Fox, 8 p.m. ET

Business at Moe's Pub is even worse than usual -- hardly seems possible, but still. He's so desperate, he'll take advice from anyone. Even Smithers, who takes to the task like Gordon Ramsay on Kitchen Nightmares, and turns Moe's into a trendy, flashy, popular bar. It's a happy place -- but is it gay? You be the judge.



HBO, 9 p.m. ET

The fifth and final season begins, with Bill (Bill Paxton) being elected state senator, and using the occasion to embrace a new sense of honesty in government -- beginning with his own unusual family situation. This sudden public profile makes Margene, especially, a little upset. Make that a lot upset.



ABC, 9 p.m. ET

The biggest prime-time soap of the 21st century, so far, meets the biggest star of the biggest prime-time soap of the 20th century. Tonight, beginning a multi-episodic guest star appearance, Larry Hagman shows up, playing the new (yet very old) fiance of Lynette's mom, played by Polly Bergen. Hagman, of course, played J.R. Ewing on the CBS hit Dallas -- and watching him splash around in another prime-time soap ought to be a lot of fun indeed.



Comedy Central, 10 p.m. ET

Leary's latest standup comedy special makes room for a few supporting players, making this a small-scale Kings of Comedy type of special. But it's Leary whose venom is still the strongest, even when aimed at such benign and harmless targets as middle-aged men in wool caps.

Oh, and by the way...

We're toying with installing an "Everybody's a Critic" feature appended to the BEST BETS, so readers can offer their own opinions of the selected shows. Counting this list and the regular one for Sunday, there are 10 choices in play. Have anything you'd like to say about any of them?

Now's your chance, in this one-shot beta test...





Hugh said:


The Seahawks play the Bears, not the Steelers, on Sunday at 1pm.

[Whoops. Only replaced half the title. My bad. Well, the Seahawks lost anyway. -- DB]

Comment posted on January 14, 2011 1:13 PM

cara said:

I think The Seahawks are playing The Bears

Comment posted on January 14, 2011 5:21 PM

Sarah said:

Let me just put it this way.

I will of course be watching the kick off to award season-The Golden Globes. Loved Ricky Gervais last year and know he will be just as good this year.

Luckily because of where I live I get two PBS stations so (because airtimes are different) I can and will be recording Masterpiece's Downton Abbey. Also The Simpsons and Desperate Housewives.

Sunday is bad but I am also worried about Monday there are three shows at ten that I watch or want to give a try but it will be just as difficult to figure out how.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Comment posted on January 14, 2011 5:35 PM

Neil said:

You wrote: Did this 1967 movie, starring Sidney Poitier as the dedicated instructor of a bunch of unruly teens in London's West End, make me want to be a teacher? Quite possibly. But it also made me want to be a charming, handsome black man, and that didn't work out as well.

To my eyes, you are a charming, handsome black man. But with a little luck, I'll get my monitor fixed this weekend and correct that.

Comment posted on January 14, 2011 7:24 PM

Erin said:

I'll be watching the football! Jets at New England should be a great game. And the Seahawks at Steelers is, well, rather impossible (they are in different conferences), unless it's a replay of Super Bowl XL. The Seahawks will be playing the Bears in Chicago, and the Steelers host the Ravens on Saturday. The Seahawks-Bears will only be exciting if the Seahawks manage to put on a similar performance they showed when they hosted the defending Super Bowl champs Saints last weekend.

Comment posted on January 15, 2011 10:42 AM

Andreas said:

while i grant you that Denis Leary's "Rescue Me" is pretty good (at least the first 2 seasons) but his standup act is just sad. especially since he built his standup career on material stolen from Bill Hicks. hardly a "best bet"

Comment posted on January 15, 2011 2:25 PM

wilberfan said:

"Big Love" has a LOT to make up for, given how badly butchered last season was. (Hmm. Pun not intended.) They have no more than two episodes this time to win me back!

Comment posted on January 15, 2011 3:41 PM

Mac said:

Still troubled about Leary lifting of material from the late Bill Hicks. There's enough evidence on youtube that Doris Kerns Goodwin would have to admit Leary plagiarized.Anything Leary does/says should be followed by an asterisk,like Roger Clemens or Mark McGwire. Looks pretty good in the moment but then you find out the real deal.

Comment posted on January 16, 2011 8:08 AM

Pete Kelsch said:

I'll be watching football during the daylight, but I'm eagerly anticipating the Golden Globes this evening. Not because it's a legitimate, respectable filmic awards show--nope, I'm anticipating Ricky Gervais. Bloke's always hilarious, but this particular venue is an ideal, target-rich environment for him, as evidenced by last year's Golden Globes. I'm expecting Ricky to be even funnier--and harsher--than last year, and I can't wait.

Comment posted on January 16, 2011 8:56 AM

Laurie Bell said:

Californication should also be on the mega-Sunday Best Bets list!

Comment posted on January 16, 2011 7:28 PM
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